Tuesday, September 6, 2016

STRENGTHENING MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES

From the outset, I confess to knowing nothing about Jason Earle who was arrested and charged after a stand-off with the RNC in which several shots were fired.

The Telegram is reporting that he is facing charges of unauthorized possession of a firearm; careless use of a firearm; unlawfully possessing a loaded, prohibited or restricted firearm or unloaded with access to ammunition; uttering threats to cause death or bodily harm; assaulting a peace officer; and unlawfully discharging a firearm while being reckless as to the life and safety of another person.  They say he also has a history including escaping from custody in 2011 when he was just 18.

What really made me interested was the claim by his girlfriend that he visited the Waterford Hospital for help but was turned away after two hours.  This is worrisome. Fortunately - no one was hurt but the seriousness of the charges reflect the clear danger that existed.

Despite a lot of talk from provincial politicians and policy makers, it seems the deplorable lack of resources for those afflicted with mental health challenges continues to be kicked down the road. It is one thing to promote a better understanding of mental health issues but where are the resources to assist those in need?

Where are the recommendations from the all-party committee reviewing the province's ability to treat mental health and addiction problems? How long will it take to implement concrete recommendations in a chronically underfunded health care sector? There are thousands of people in this province on wait lists and hundreds more waiting to be assessed. 

Mental health consumers, survivors, their families and society have poured their hearts out to the committee which was founded over a year-and-a-half ago! 

Where are the promised improvements on mental health programmes and services? What are we actually doing to reduce the harmful effects on mental health and save lives?

What are the secondary impacts of the economic crisis on mental health in this province?  Are we experiencing increased suicide, drug and alcohol related deaths? It is a hard question to answer because hard data is difficult to find. 

It is well known that economic crises produce times of high risk to the mental well-being of the population and of the people affected and their families. Studies have shown that poverty, financial problems and social deprivation are major socioeconomic risk factors for mental health problems and disorders 

This province is facing an unprecedented economic crisis, which will significantly affect mental health outcomes.

I can only imagine the torture that families are going through as the major breadwinners have lost their lucrative jobs in the oil industry and EI benefits are expiring. The pressure must be enormous but the needed social supports are not there.

Policy choices can mitigate the adverse effects of this economic downturn on the population's mental health. 

Of course government could not get it right when they had the financial resources to address issues like the access to basic social safety networks, universal mental health services and the like before the unfolding crisis. 

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